The UT Libraries Diversity Action Committee hosted a discussion about LGBTQ+ immigration and intersectionality at the Perry-Castañeda Library Wednesday.
The committee is a volunteer group of UT Libraries staff that aims to support diversity though inclusivity education and advocacy initiatives, according to the event pamphlet.
Karma Chávez, associate professor in the Department of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies, gave the keynote speech, “#AbolishICE: The Importance of Queer and Trans Migrant Activism.” Chávez spoke about the radicalization of politics in immigration reform, specifically for the LGBTQ+ population.
“The movement for immigration justice in the United States, particularly when it comes to … queer and trans migrant perspectives and experiences, has continued to shift drastically in ways that key towards the visions put forth by years for economic justice,” Chavez said.
Chavez said the movement intersected with other campaigns pushing for changes, such as abolishing prisons and ICE. Because these issues are starting to gain traction in the mainstream media, Chavez said, policy reform for LGBTQ+ migrants is beginning to gain legitimacy.
“Queer and trans migrants are central to building coalitions among potentially radical movements,” Chavez said.
Sociology graduate student Erika Slaymaker helped coordinate the event with Diversidad Sin Fronteras Texas. The organization, which co-sponsored the event, provides support to 25 asylum-seeking transgender women being held in a detention center two hours from Austin.
After Chávez’s speech, the organization led an activity in which attendees could write letters to the women.
Slaymaker said her involvement with the organization stemmed from her frustration with anti-immigration rhetoric.
“I am someone who wanted to figure out a way to connect to immigrant justice in one small way,” Slaymaker said. “Being able to connect through this felt like (a) concrete thing that I could do to support (the cause).”
Sandibel Borges, a Mexican American Studies postdoctoral fellow, said there is still a gap that needs to continue to be researched between LGBTQ+ migration and its effects.
“I am an immigrant, I am queer, and it just seemed like every time that I looked at research on migration, there wasn’t a lot of conversation,” Borges said. “We should be talking about … discussions or representations of the migration system and what that transition (from mainstream to radical) means and why it’s important.”